Spring has sprung. So, there's no time like the present to get movin' on your health and physique. Committing to run a 5K can do just that. You may never have pictured yourself wearing a race number and standing in a huddle at the starting line, but life shouldn't be a spectator sport.
If you've been walking, it may be time to kick things up a notch and progress to running. It's the things in life that you DON'T do that you regret, so read on to find out how you can train for your first 5K.
First, find an event. There's no shortage this time of year. Search web sites like www.Metrosports.com or www.Runnersworld.com for event listings. You may want to select one based on the sponsoring charity, location or date. Give yourself at least eight weeks to prepare mentally and physically. Once you have your date, you can focus on training with a new purpose. You may even want to enlist a training buddy.
A 5K is 3.1 miles. How much do you need to train to be able to run your first 5K race? If you possess a reasonable level of fitness, you can probably run three miles on very little training. You might be sore for a few days after the race, but you still could finish.
The Training Sessions
In order to avoid injury and make your first 5K a good experience, here's a simple plan for beginners featuring 30 minutes of exercise every other day. You may see walking as the enemy when trying to build up to running, but continuous walking will gradually prepare your legs for running.
If you're a beginner, start with one full week of walking for 20'30 minutes per session. Start by thinking in terms of seconds and minutes, not miles. Walk out the door and go 15 minutes in one direction, turn around, and return 15 minutes to where you started.
After your first week of walking 30 minutes, strive to walk for the first 10 minutes of your workout and the last 5 minutes. During the middle 15 minutes of the workout, jog for 30 seconds, walk until you recover, then jog 30 seconds again.
Repeat the jog, walk, jog sequence until the 15 minutes are up. In the beginning, it may take you up to four minutes to recover from 30 seconds of jogging. Eventually, adapt a 30/30 pattern: jogging 30 seconds and walking 30 seconds repeatedly for 15 minutes. Follow this 30/30 pattern for 30 sessions. Do what your body tells you. Everyone is different in his or her ability to adapt to exercise. When you're beginning, it's better to do too little than too much.
If you continue this 30/30 routine for 30 days, you will finish the month able to cover 2-3 kilometers walking and jogging. You're now ready to progress to the next stage of your training as a beginning runner. If you train every other day, it will take you two months to be able to run continuously for 30 minutes.
Building up to the 5K
Gradually, begin to increase the jogging time and decrease the walking time. For example, run for 45 seconds and walk for 30 seconds. Then, progress to a ratio of 60/30, then 75/30 or 60/15.
Vary your routine. Work a little harder one day, then make the next session an easier one. Build in a weekly rest day, where you do no activity and give your body a chance to recover. Without rest days, you won't improve. Running a 5K won't happen overnight, but it can happen in two short months -- and along the way you will see gradual improvements in your physical fitness.
Even when you build up to continuous running, remember to begin and end each workout by walking five minutes. This pattern of warming up, training hard and then cooling down is one used by runners at all levels.
Once you've mastered running for 5K, you can continue to train by increasing .25 miles each week for another month and then begin to incorporate speed intervals. If the training seems too difficult for you, either repeat the week you have just completed or drop back to the previous week before continuing.
Only you can judge whether you are pushing too fast or too slow, but it's best to err on the conservative side.
What To Wear
It's essential that you treat yourself to a new pair of running sneakers when you increase your running time. Cushioned socks will also help prevent blisters, calluses, corns and ingrown nails. They help keep the feet dry, so they don't move as much inside the shoe. Specialty socks are available for running. Choose loose-fitting garments or tight-fitting Lycra clothing, as they both work equally well. Bright-colored clothing helps ensure safety in high-traffic areas.
Unless you've done it, you'll never understand the feeling of accomplishment training for and competing in a physical event can bring. It's one of the greatest senses of accomplishment you can have to push your physical limits. Once you've run your first 5K, there's no reason you can't continue to compete at that race distance. You may enjoy it so much, you may want to increase the distance and try the 10K.
Building up to running can be fun, but don't make the mistake of doing too much too fast. The more you enjoy your training, the more encouraged you'll be to become a pacesetter.